Today, BBC reported that children might be more susceptible to common illnesses this winter because of an “immunity debt” built up during lockdowns. Dr. Rob Orford, the Welsh government’s chief scientific advisor for health, spoke to the Welsh parliament’s health committee. In addition to telling them there is a great deal of uncertainty about what could happen next with the pandemic, he warned the re-emergence of respiratory diseases suppressed during the lockdown could flood the healthcare system. According to BBC:
He [Orford] told the committee: “We may have stacked up some immunity debt in the system where children have not been mixing with friends, and so they may be more susceptible to some of the illnesses we traditionally see.”
Members of the Senedd (MSs) [Welsh Parliament] were told children were much less likely to get seriously ill with coronavirus or to develop long Covid.
But Fliss Bennee, co-chair of the government’s technical advisory cell, said children had suffered “unproportionally” in the pandemic by losing out on education and play.
She added: “We are also aware that there is a harm that builds up from not being able to have social interaction that leads to the development of barrier immunity from exposure to other infection diseases.”
Nice to see health advisors being honest. Orford told the government that kids are likely to become sicker than usual due to flu and other illnesses. More children will need care, including hospitalization, in the UK’s National Health System (NHS) when the season comes around. There is already a backlog in the NHS, with the median wait for treatment being 10.9 weeks and 1.8 million patients waiting 18 weeks or longer.
The southeastern U.S. experienced this during a recent off-season spike in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Unfortunately, this spike coincided with the surge in the Delta variant, so the media and doctors on TV implied that the hospitalization of children was due to COVID-19. The CDC data on hospitalizations by age show COVID-19 was not the culprit. In the week of the surge, when the most children were in the hospital, the total on COVID-NET was 117. While the system only covers 10% of the U.S., it includes Georgia and Tennessee, which got slammed by the media for a shortage of pediatric beds.
You may be old enough to remember two California doctors opposing lockdowns because of the immunity “debt” can affect everyone due to how our immune system develops and maintains itself. At the end of April 2020, Dr. Dan Erickson and Dr. Artin Massihi held a press conference to call for an end to lockdowns. They discussed the damage reduced activity can have on the function of the immune system. As I wrote at the time:
Next, they [Erickson and Massihi] were very clear on how self-isolation can actually compromise the immune system in otherwise healthy people. Dr. Erickson explained that the immune system is actually built by exposure to pathogens. Coming in contact with viruses and bacteria in the environment fires the body’s system for fighting infection. Additionally, the normal flora, or good germs we have on and in us all the time, also drop when we isolate.
The combination of reducing regular exposure to pathogens in the environment and lowering the good bacteria that helps us fight off infection, concerns both physicians. By reserving nearly all healthcare system assets to treat COVID-19, the available capacity of the system in their area has actually contracted.
This is another cautionary tale about suppressing scientific debate. Now consider the other things we aren’t allowed to talk about. Scientists who asserted there was a possibility that SARS-CoV-2 came from the Wuhan lab got censored. Now it looks like the most likely origin. Doctors promoting FDA-approved repurposed medications for outpatient COVID-19 treatment now have their licenses threatened. There is also censoring taking place in the ongoing debate about who should be receiving vaccines.
Perhaps we had never quarantined the healthy before because we used to know how the immune system works. Some doctors still do. Vast segments of the population had a very low risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and we knew that early in the pandemic. The media and health bureaucracies actively suppressed the debate on a focused protection strategy. Now children may suffer another consequence of mass hysteria among adults.
Only history will be able to judge the full impact of accepting science as an institution rather than a rigorous process full of nuance and trade-offs.